American Elephants

HHS Rules Here, FDA Regs There, First Thing You Know You’re Talking Billions. by The Elephant's Child

It is really easy. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) passed three new rules over the course of just four days in January, adding $9.1 billion of regulatory burden during the first month of the new year, a new report claims.

According to a study by the American Action Forum released on Friday, the 797 pages of new regulations will account for $9.1 billion in new costs, and mount up to 10.6 million hours of additional paperwork burden.

One of the major costs came from expansion of Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and the state–based health insurance exchange programs — all mandated under the Affordable Care Act. The total price tag is $2.6 billion, the paperwork burden 518,432 hours. HHS has allowed 17 working days to submit comments on the 500 page overhaul of Medicaid and SCHIP.

The other two rules come from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their new rules for standard for harvesting and holding produce for humans to consume, is expected to cost $3.2 billion over a 7 year period, adding another 8.8 billion hours of paperwork.

The other FDA ruling is to standardize and modernize manufacturing practices and analysis for “hazardous food” which will cost between $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion. The paperwork burden is not a joke. These two FDA rulings would require 5,005 employees dedicated strictly to red tape compliance.

Obama’s Unconstitutional Abuse of Power: by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has increasingly shown contempt for the constitutional limits on executive power, for Obama is a full-fledged relativist. A thoroughly modern man who is distinguished by the absence of “rigid” opinion and moral values. The Constitution which he took an oath to preserve and protect, should be updated to conform to more modern times. After all we are just one nation among many, no better, no worse, and certainly not exceptional.

Back on January 4, 2012,  Mr Obama bypassed the Senate’s constitutional advise and consent power by naming three new members to the National Labor Relations Board, and appointing Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Many Presidents have made recess appointments and we have supported that executive authority.  So what difference, at this point, does it make?

The problem was that when Obama consciously made those “recess” appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess but was conducting pro-forma sessions precisely so that Mr. Obama could not make a recess appointment. No president had ever tried that one before.

In Noel Canning v. NLRB, a Washington state Pepsi bottler challenged a NLRB board decision on the grounds that the recess appointments were invalid and the NLRB lacked the three-member quorum required to conduct business. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit agreed, and briskly slapped down the White House about the separation of powers.

The opinion was 46 pages, and the three-judge panel said that “not only logic and language, but also constitutional history” reject the President’s attempt to go around the law. The Federalist Papers refer to recess appointments expiring at the end of the following session of Congress. It is a constitutional relic of a time when Congress would break for several months at a time, and lawmakers could not hop on a plane to get back to the capitol.  It was meant as a stopgap for times when the Senate was unable to provide advice and consent, not as an exception to the rule.

The court cleared the air by noting that the Constitution refers not to “a recess” but to “the recess,” and an adjournment. The administration was trying to turn a power to make emergency appointments during a formal recess of Congress into a free-wheeling power to make appointments during any adjournment.

The ruling will invalidate everything done by the two agencies. Many agencies have bypassed  normal congressional approval, without making their action into a good case for the Supreme Court.  Lots of people have been harmed by determinations and orders from the NLRB and the CFPB, and they will head to court. The Administration will appeal to the Supreme Court. There will be arguments that the D.C. Circuit did not have jurisdiction, but the court persuasively found that it did. Going to be interesting. Tim Carney made noises about judicial overreach, and huffed and puffed, but that’s what Obama pays him for.

At Least 10,000 New Crocodiles in the Limpopo River. by The Elephant's Child

An African Safari

South Africa has called out the police to join the hunt for as many as 10,000 crocodiles that have escaped from a crocodile farm during floods and been washed into one of Southern Africa’s biggest rivers. Do not go swimming in the Limpopo River.

Heavy rains and flooding have claimed at least 20 lives in Mozambique and South Africa and led to evacuations. The flood gates at the Rakwena Crocodile farm close to the Botswana and Zimbabwe borders ere opened on Sunday because it was feared that rising flood waters would crush the reptiles, releasing some 15,000 crocodiles. Most are less than 78 inches long.

Crocodile farmers, locals and police have trapped thousands of the reptiles, using plastic bands to tie their legs behind their backs and piling them into pick-up trucks. They have more success at night, because it is easier to see them. Huh.

I have never lived where crocodiles are common, nor alligators, nor do I want to. Someone once sent us a baby crocodile as a  joke. Not funny. Fortunately, a worker at the Humane Society had a husband who was a Herpetologist who was delighted to have the chance to raise one. Took me a long time to get over being angry about that.

Whatever! by The Elephant's Child

Hillary Clinton testifies
…………………………………………………….photo by Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters

“What difference, at this point, does it make”

That’s the plaintive cry of the modern relativist. What’s a relativist? As Roger Kimball says in the preface to his admirable new book The Fortunes of Permanence, “It wasn’t that long ago that a responsible educated person in the West was someone who entertained firm moral and political principles. When those principles were challenged, he would typically rise to defend them. The more serious the challenge, the more concerted the defense.”

Kimball quotes  Canadian writer William Gairdner from his The Book of Absolutes, a study of relativism. A modern relativist

is more likely to think of him or herself as proudly distinguished by the absence of “rigid” opinions and moral values, to be someone “tolerant” and “open.” Such a person will generally profess some variation of relativism, or “you do your thing and I’ll do mine,” as a personal philosophy. Many in this frame of mind privately consider themselves exemplars of an enlightened modern attitude that civilization has worked hard to attain, and if pushed, they would admit to feeling just a little superior to all those sorry souls of prior generations forced to bend under moral and religious constraints.

An enlightened modern attitude? Moral indifference? “Whatever” has become a defining term. Or call it simply multiculturalism.  Equality of groupiness.  What is important about you is the culture to which you were born and what group you belong to. If you are black, the color of your skin is the defining element about you. If you are Hispanic, it is apparently that you speak the Spanish language, but it is more defining if your skin is brown, and you are here illegally. Lo que sea!

In an interview just before departing from her office as Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis spoke of how proud she was of the multiculturalism of her department. They had Latinas and Latinos, Blacks, Women,  LGBT people, disabled people, Asians,  all the necessary boxes on the multicultural assortment paper had been checked off. I don’t think she mentioned white men. Pigeonholes.

Any agency that hires on the basis of checked off boxes instead of skills, knowledge, expertise, and ability to play well with others will not contribute to good government. But then good government is no longer the objective. But what does it matter?

There have been natural disasters in our country, and we have an obligation to care for the victims. so we have set up an agency to do that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). So we know that problem is taken care of. What? They don’t get there in time,? Their regulations prevent real help? They have trailers for emergency housing, but they are assigned elsewhere? Whatever. We can only follow the rules. There are no failures.

Difficult situations are “fixed” by creating an agency, or a regulation. Whether it actually works or not is a matter of moral indifference. Old dusty documents like the Constitution are too confining, too rigid. We need a living document that adapts to modern times as the times change. For relativists there are no absolutes. No firm, unchanging political principles. A right to keep and bear arms? Well, not now, when little children have been brutally murdered. Too rigid. We must get rid of most weapons, particularly the scary-looking ones. Wasn’t the Second Amendment just about Militias?

It was supposed to be a form of liberation — freedom from rigid rules. God is dead, everything is permissible, there are no absolute values. There is no absolute truth. America is not exceptional, Western culture or the intellectual heritage of the West, is more often to be at fault, and other traditions may be more interesting. All cultures are equally valuable, and calling some Muslims “terrorists” because their culture is different is just — judgmental.

Noticing the imperfection of our society, we may be tempted into thinking that the problem is the limiting structures we have inherited. Relativism promises liberation from “oppressive” moral constraints. So we adopt new enablers: “pluralism,” “diversity,” “tolerance”, “openness” which end as official warnings to accept all behaviors of others without judgment. Above all we must not be judgmental. There is no truth, no right and wrong, no eternal truth. After all, what difference, at this point, does it make?

Ironically, the very success of economic and political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers.The narrowly limited government of the late nineteenth century possessed little concentrated power that endangered the ordinary man. The other side of the coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good. And in an imperfect world there were still many evils.  Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always, people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve — if only government power were in the “right” hands.
…………………………..Milton and Rose Friedman: Free to Choose

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